So it was Christmas Eve, and I was all excited.
But also behind.
As in I had one more bed to make and a final sweep of the house to do… little dusting here, picking up the innards of disemboweled stuffed animals (courtesy of Belle) there. JoHn had just left for a final run to the market. Mac, Jack, and Gabe were down in Portland, waiting to pick up Sam and Avery from the airport.
I had a little more than an hour before the house would be full of family, food, fun (and hopefully some quiet moments of reading and talking and movies too) for the better part of a week.
My plan was to finish up my puttering, hop in the shower, and be downstairs for the holiday welcoming festivities.
It was a good plan.
Then, as I was about to clean the third floor bathroom, I heard my phone ringing.
From the first floor.
I considered ignoring it, but JoHn was at the market and is (self-admittedly) prone to forgetting items and/or amounts of somethings necessary.
I rushed downstairs to find the phone had stopped ringing, and I had a voicemail notification from…
It was from my new neighbor, Ivan.
Ivan is, like, a pretty brand new neighbor who isn’t actually here, as in ‘in Maine’, right now.
I called him back.
He picked up right away, and wished me Merry Christmas.
Then Ivan said he needed a favor.
He explained that a package had been delivered to their home up here, by mistake. They had taken it inside and, when they opened it, immediately realized it must have been delivered to the wrong address. The road listed on the label was close, but they didn’t recognized the name of the addressee (at least connected to this particular street). Knowing they’d be back after Christmas, if not before, they put it under their Christmas tree for safe keeping.
Then, in some sort of series of events I am not familiar with (and I don’t even know if Ivan is familiar with), the true owners of the package (and its contents) not only figured out that their package had been delivered to someone else, they tracked down to which house.
Which was Ivan’s.
Except he and his family weren’t there.
And their house was locked.
And getting arrested for breaking and entering at Christmastime is not a risk most people want to take (well… most people).
And I do not know how they got Ivan’s phone number, but they did. And Ivan wanted to help, so he was calling me to tell me where his house key was hidden, and asking me if I would go into his house to retrieve the ‘lost’ parcel from beneath their Christmas tree. He would let the folks know that I had the package, and they could come and get it from me.
He explained that it was a Christmas gift… for a little girl.
I was all in.
luck magic is preparation meeting opportunity, this is what I’d spent my whole life working toward.
I assured Ivan I was happy to help, and hung up.
I pulled on my boots, stepped outside and crunched my way across the snowy yard toward my neighbor’s house.
As I approached the house, I could hear voices. And, when I rounded the corner toward their main door, I saw a man and a woman in the yard. The woman was on her cell phone, talking and laughing, and the man walked over to me. He introduced himself as ‘Greg’ and motioned toward his wife, Janna, who was on the phone with Ivan’s wife, Monica (c’mon keep up). Greg explained that he and Janna were waiting for someone to meet them there, to get something from inside the house. I smiled and told him I was probably that person.
However, it became apparent – rather quickly – that the key I was looking for was not where it was supposed to be.
Monica and Ivan were certain it was where they left it.
But… it was not.
Monica kindly offered that they would all be up after Christmas, and could deliver the gift to the little girl then. She even came up with a plausible explanation for Santa’s error in not bringing the gift on Christmas morning.
I looked at Janna.
The look on her face was that of a mother whose child’s Christmas morning joy was just out of reach, on the other side of a stranger’s locked door.
That was not going to work.
Was there another way into the house?
What about this…
What about there…
How could we make this happen…
Then, another call to Ivan resulted in his realization that the plumbers, who had been working on the house, might not have put the key back where it usually lived.
I asked him if he would call the plumbers and see if this was true, and he said he would, and hung up.
My phone rang.
Ivan could not get in touch with the plumber… probably because it was Christmas Eve.
Janna asked who the plumbing company was… was it Billy, by chance?
Ah, the benefits of being a ‘local’ in New England.
Yes! Yes, it was Billy!
Janna’s Dad knew Billy!
I hung up with Ivan.
Janna called her Dad.
Her Dad tried Billy.
Her Dad called back.
He’d gotten in touch with Billy’s son… whose house were they at? Okay, hang on… Okay, Billy’s son would call Billy.
More hang ups, more calls back.
Oh good! Billy couldn’t come to the house, but he had just enough time to go to the shop and leave the key where Janna and her husband could find it.
I gave them my cell number, and they left for the key.
Ten minutes… fifteen…
I got a text. They had the key! They were on their way back. They’d text when they got here.
They got here!
I headed back over.
I tried the key.
It didn’t work in the first door.
I made my way over to another door.
I went in, and there – beneath the tree – was a beautiful, brand new Barbie Airplane.
When I emerged from the house with it, Janna welled up.
A hug and some thanks and some Merry Christmases later, they were in their car heading home.
And I walked back to my house.
Not a worry about it being a little dusty…
Nor anxieties woven into the ever-present dog hair or gutted stuffed animals laying around…
I headed up to take a shower and, when I made my way back downstairs, I walked into a kitchen full of a loud, laughing family.
We jumped right into stories.
And ate and talked and wandered into memories older and newer as the night unfolded, and eventually made our way up to bed…
And back down on Christmas morning.
Then, in the midst of making breakfast and opening our own presents, and having forgotten all about sharing my cell phone number with a very grateful Mom (and newly minted friend), I heard my phone ding.
And got this…
My best Christmas gift.
Thanks for readin’.
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